There can be few virtues more necessary to the Way of the Desert than resilience;
In his review of Justine Allain-Chapman’s “Resilient Pastors: The Role of Adversity in Healing and Growth” (2012), Nick Baines comments:
“One of the remarkable things about the wonderful Olympics 2012 is how the humble champions speak of the journey to the podium. It is easy to hear them speak of “twelve years of training and preparation for this event” without realising that those twelve years were made up of over 4380 days. In some cases every single day involved rigorous dieting and training – come rain, snow or sunshine.
This is not the job of wusses. If many words could be used to describe what is involved in such athletic commitment, one of them might be ‘resilience’. And it is a word deserving of wider reference and application.
In a culture of what I have called elsewhere ‘consumerist narcissism’ (or ‘narcissistic consumerism’?) – in which self-fulfilment justifies any cost – resilience is not needed. And in a Christian church that looks for instant healings and panaceas for every bit of conflict or challenge, resilience is often underplayed. For resilience implies continued struggle, acceptance of adversity, re-direction into altruism….
Moving from a look at the desert as a place of tough encounter, she takes a brief illustrative perspective from the Bible… and then from the Desert Fathers:
“To go through the desert experience involuntarily can be both overwhelming and crushing. To embrace it can prove both constructive and liberating.” (p.54)
Identifying three stages of the desert metaphor which promote resilience – embracing the desert; encountering God and the self; altruistic living and pastoral responsibility – she then explores how these work out when we choose to face up to the struggle and not simply look for a quick resolution to it.”
Justine Allain-Chapman has worked in parish ministry in the Diocese of Southwark, as both curate and Vicar, and is now Vice-Principal of the South East Institute of Theological Education (a course which trains a large number of students for ministry). After studying theology in at King’s College, London, she was head of religious studies in a London secondary school. She trained for ministry in the Church of England at Lincoln Theological College after which she worked in parish ministry as a curate and as a vicar in South London. Justine was a member of the General Synod from 2000 to 2004.
She recently gained a Doctorate in Theology and Ministry from King’s College, London (“From Adversity to Altruism and Beyond: a pastoral theology of resilience”).